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Lighthouse renovations near completion; Restored public access expected by October

Renovations are nearly complete on the Buffalo Lighthouse, setting the stage for opening the site on the outer harbor to the public for the first time since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The lighthouse, built in 1833, has been inaccessible because it sits in the middle of a large Coast Guard base. But through a $6.1 million federal grant awarded in 2008, coupled with $170,000 provided by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., the area around the local icon should be open in time for the National Preservation Conference, to be held in Buffalo in October.

"The work on the lighthouse complements our efforts to open up portions of the Buffalo Coast Guard land along the water's edge to the public," Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, said Thursday at a news conference.

The lighthouse has remained intact because of the efforts of public officials as well as the Buffalo Lighthouse Association, a nonprofit founded in 1985 to maintain the historic structure.

Tom Johnston, president of the association, said the structure faced condemnation before some initial renovations were made in 1987. That work, as well as the renovations this summer, were done by International Chimney Corp., a Williamsville-based expert at restoring lighthouses that gave the lighthouse association a highly favorable rate to help rebuild the local landmark.

This year's updates, Johnston said, were designed to allow the lighthouse's steel and mortar to withstand another 30 years of the "cold and the heat and the snow," as well as "prevailing winds coming 200 miles from Toledo" that batter it before reaching any other building in the city.

"It's the oldest building in Buffalo," Johnston said. "It was built one year after Buffalo became a city; it's on the seal of the City of Buffalo; it's really an integral part of Buffalo; and we want it to be maintained so the citizens can take pride in it."

By October, Higgins said the public should be able to park on Fuhrmann Boulevard and walk along the river to the historic lighthouse.